It was yet another day of all-around success for the Quakers as the men’s and women’s cross country teams took a short trip to Bethlehem, Pa. to compete in Lehigh's Paul Short Invitational.
Both teams had come off strong performances at Boston College and Haverford, in which they outran many strong regional competitors. They were determined to repeat their prior successes at the Paul Short Invitational, and luckily for the Red and Blue, they did not disappoint.
The men’s team, competing against several nationally ranked teams at the meet, came in second out of 44 total teams — just behind Utah State — in the College Gold 8K race. They posted a score of 144 and an average time of 23:59 at Paul Short, outperforming No. 23 Iona and No. 29 Villanova in a surprising upset.
Junior Anthony Russo continued his dominance for the Quakers and finished 11th overall with a final time of 23:40.9 to lead the team. Senior Will Daly and junior Ryan Renken also cracked the top 25 for Penn, finishing 19th and 23rd overall, respectively, and seniors Andrew Hally and Colin Daly rounded out the Quakers’ top 5, coming in 43rd and 56th respectively.
“We know that there [are] bigger meets towards the end of the season, so we’re definitely aiming our training towards those meets — the Ivy League championships and the regional championships — to help us qualify for nationals,” Russo said. “To come out here in an early season race like this that we’re using as more of a building block toward the bigger races at the end of the season, it’s really good that we beat some good teams.”
The cross country team sees itself as stepping up the intensity of each competition in order to finish strong and go into the postseason with maximum momentum. This is all a part of the strategy of the team, who put this level of effort into each and every mile of the run.
“Today we wanted to give it more of an effort. We wanted to stay tough for those middle miles because 8k is almost 5 miles. It’s a long race,” Russo said. “For miles 2-4 we wanted to stay tough and stay on the gas to prepare us for those later races at the end of the season.”
The women’s team competed just as impressively in the women’s College Gold 6K. They finished third of 38 total teams, behind just Queen’s University and Adam’s State, concluding the race with a score of 177 and an average time of 20:40. Senior Maddie Villalba reached the finish line first for the Quakers, coming in 12th overall with a final time of 20:09.9. Senior Nia Akins and freshman Ariana Gardizy followed closely, respectively coming in 27th and 33rd overall. Junior Melissa Tanaka (53rd) and freshman Lizzy Bader (67th) rounded out the five best scorers for the women’s team, who defeated No. 27 Princeton in their impressive afternoon.
In both the men’s and women’s open races, for which over one thousand runners competed in total, the Quakers put up quality performances. Four Penn athletes in the men’s race — Aaron Groff, Daniel Cohen, Mitchell Poynter and James Lee — cracked the top 25, and a trio of freshmen runners — Jared Cooper, Anton Idhammar and Michael Keehan — all placed between 31st and 42nd overall. In the women’s race, the freshmen also shined, with Delia Russo and Nikhila Obbineni coming in 21st and 26th, respectively.
The next meet for both the men’s and women’s teams is on the morning of Oct. 18 at the Penn State National Open, and the Quakers are determined to perform well again as the stakes of their season gradually increase.